BRANSON: an HBO documentary series about my life
I’ve never been one to look back, and much prefer focusing on the future. But sometimes life offers up opportunities to take a trip down memory lane before speeding back into the present. Introducing BRANSON, a new HBO original four-part documentary series about my life made by Chris Smith (HBO’s “100 Foot Wave”; Netflix’s “Tiger King”), which debuts on December 1.
I’ve always believed that your life is not wasted if you’ve learnt a lot and you’ve shared it, which is exactly why I was so excited to accept Chris’ invitation to make this series. The series has captured the pinnacle moments of my life – without glossing over the challenges, sleepless nights, moments of intense fear, heartbreak, and days where everything just felt impossible. I’m excited by how this series can show you how I got through it, in the hope it might help you too. It’s brought back to me a lot of heart-thumping, jaw-dropping, and extraordinarily exhilarating moments of my life that far outweigh the down times and will hopefully remind everyone the risk is always worth taking, and the moments that take your breath away are always worth chasing.
Much of my conversation with Chris was filmed just days before my spaceflight – making the experience even more moving and reflective. He, alongside producer Kate Noble and their team, also dug up some incredible archive footage which has never been seen before and filled me with nostalgia. Alongside interviews with yours truly, the series also features the brilliant minds I’ve worked with over the past 50 years as well as journalists, industry experts and intimate conversations with my family. It’s particularly moving hearing from my late mum Eve, and amazing to finally see my wife Joan – always ever-present behind the scenes – thriving in front of the camera.
It’s a warts-and-all series. Both Chris Smith and HBO pride themselves on their independence and not letting the subject matter interfere, which obviously results in some moments the subject matter would prefer to change (me included!) But I understand it makes for a far more gripping program this way. For instance, if I was involved with a TV series about myself I wouldn’t call it ‘Branson’! I’ve been known as Richard since I left school at 15 and it feels strange being called by my surname. (If Branson had to be in the title, I would have called it something like ‘Branson. Sir Richard Branson’. But with no editorial control, I don’t get to make changes - I suspect the better for it.)
The first episode chronicles my youth, starting with the days spent in my first office – which was actually my school phone box. I would stand there ringing printers, advertisers and journalists for Student Magazine – a national magazine for young people to learn about what was going on in the world (from Vietnam to LGBT+ rights). It also highlights the colossal influence of my mother, Eve, and the path that led us to launching Virgin Records.
The following episodes cover everything from the launch of Virgin Atlantic, to spine tingling transoceanic world-record breaking adventures, to the global expansion of Virgin, and culminating in the most unforgettable experience of my life: the day I went to space with Virgin Galactic.
Episode one will debut on Thursday, December 1 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO in the US, December 4th in the UK, and will be available to stream on HBO Max, with screening times varying across the world. New episodes will air at the same time on subsequent Thursdays. The documentary has been challenging at times, and an adventure in itself to make, and I hope it encourages all of you to pursue a life more wonderful and expansive than you ever thought possible.